Monkey Zone: Your Primate Resource Center for Education & Information

Monkey Trick Training


Lui taking bath with trainer Lisa
About Lisa Whiteaker, trainer
Lisa is a certified trainer.
by Lisa, President & Founder of MonkeyZone

Only for monkeys at starting age of 5 and older

It is only natural that once having tamed your monkey, you will want to train it. Once the monkey is properly tamed, training is simple. Trick Training can only be started when your monkey is fully developed and is an ADULT! You can not trick train a infant or Juvenile. It takes years to first Tame and Train, then trick training will be enjoyable and fun for both the monkey and you.

Training is mostly a matter of repeating the same thing over and over until it finally becomes a habit with the monkey. The most important thing to remember is that you must make certain your pet understands what you want to do. When you decide on a trick, show the monkey what you want by putting it in a certain position. Always repeat the same words with the same actions, and it will eventually associate the action with the command. Don't try to do too many different things all at once. It is better to concentrate on one trick at a time and work on it until it is perfected before introducing a new one. My monkey (MugWhy) sometimes will go for months without doing what I want her to do and then she will give a perfect performance without rehearsal. I do not like to over train. Monkeys do many clever things of their own accord, and if you cultivate these natural actions, so that they will do them whenever you want them to, your monkey will appear to be very well-trained and will be much happier in performing for you if they do a number of things that are not artificial or strange to them.

Obedience is the first and the ut-most important lesson in training. Let your monkey know in a kind but firm way that you are the Alpha and will not tolerate any foolishness. You can do this and still make the training periods fun for your monkey and yourself. In training MugWhy, I have found it better to work for short periods, a few times daily, at the same time of the day, than to work for one long period. In other words, work for fifteen or twenty minutes, a couple times a day, then play for a short time after you finish the lesson. By using brief periods, you don't tire your monkey and you aren't as likely to loose your temper. If you should find yourself becoming impatient or cross, STOP AT ONCE! Put your monkey away for a while and give your nerves a chance to calm down. Never strike your monkey while trying to teach it. If you strike or hurt your monkey while teaching, it will associate the hurt with the trick and will be afraid to try it again. When MugWhy does something incorrectly, I don't scold her I show her again and again how the trick is done. When she does the trick correctly, I praise her and give her a treat! Marshmallows and meal worms work real well, not to mention yogurt covered raisins.

When MugWhy was a baby I introduced her to water as soon as I brought her home. I tried to put my mind into perspective thinking what would or how would Capuchins bathe in the wild. I thought of a stream of running water. This took place at the kitchen sink, by turning the water on and making sure I had a tiny stream of water coming out. I didn't want to scare her in any way, so I gently put her under the running water, without getting her face wet. I lathered her up in Johnson's baby shampoo, again not her face, then rinsed her off. She cried a little but in time she soon loved to take or get a bath. I have heard allot of different opinions about bathing, like the shower works better, a bucket or bowl of water works wonders. Not all monkey like the same thing. The trick is giving them a bath when they are little several times a week.

I don't care if MugWhy to wear clothes, it isn't one of MugWhy's favorite things, I never have pushed the issue. It isn't important to me if she wears them or not. It's not natural in the wild. You may find your monkey is like MugWhy and likes to rip them apart.

Many monkey owners primates wear diapers, for it is quite a job to diaper train a monkey, and just when you think your monkey is fully diaper trained, you turn your back for a moment only to look back and find they have ripped off the diaper, and for most it is a game. Frustrating yes, but always a challenge to try again.

You can train your monkey to do allot of cute things, like sitting in a chair. I started by showing MugWhy the chair and letting her play with it, by tipping it over and jumping up and down on it. I found if you get a little toddlers chair works well. When MugWhy got accustomed to the chair, I helped her sit on it. Of course she thought it was fun jumping into the chair, but now was the tough job of getting her to stay seated in the chair. Rewarding her for sitting there, it was a easy task for MugWhy to sit in a chair, but not for a long period of time. Just enough time to take a picture!

Walking on the hind legs comes naturally to Capuchin and Spider monkeys. Since MugWhy was little I had a belt around her waist and a leash to follow. I have found when we walk around the house, she started to grab the leash and walk upright. Now, it is a habit for her. Monkeys will stand straight up and walk backwards on their hind legs, this behavior in these monkeys comes naturally especially when they greet newcomers. It is a sense of threat. I keep MugWhy's leash on her, she has learned to carry her leash in her tail. She also has learned how to keep her leash from getting tangled. Walking upright is a wonderful exercise for monkeys hind legs.

Anytime you plan to use a "prop" in a trick, such as a chair, ball, ect.. let your monkey become accustomed to the object before you try to do anything with it. In this way, the fear is overcome before you start working with the prop. Toys that I have mentioned in my recent articles, can help you in your training periods. Most monkeys like to play with a ball, and if you use it only during training periods, they soon learn to "play ball" with you. At first they can catch it and never give it back to you. But after a while, throwing it back and forth, they soon learn to toss it. Their aim however, isn't too good, but you should pretend to be a good catcher.

They like bright and shiny things, and of course, noise makers. I don't like to give MugWhy soft rubber objects, or anything coated with harmful paint. Especially a paint containing lead. Be sure there are no sharp edges on metal toys, because they might cut themselves. Nearly all monkeys will spend hours playing with their reflections in a looking glass. This provides amusement for them, and not to mention great fun for anyone watching; but here again a word of warning, use a metal mirror instead of a glass one.
I have found, if you start with the simplest and easiest tricks first, they will become very successful. Don't expect too much from your monkey, something that you think may be easy, may be beyond the ability of your monkey. And remember, you have the idea and you know what you want the monkey to do, so it is up to you to give the idea and show it how the trick is done. Try to make the training periods interesting and enjoyable to your monkey, and you will find they are more profitable and enjoyable for you also. A monkey that is happy and enjoys performing is one that has been trained properly, loves it's trainer, and works for the fun it has and gives others. A monkey that works for fear of a beating is a sad animal and the chances are strong it will not live very long, it will pine away and die rather than lead such a miserable life.

I have tried to give you the basic methods that I use in my training, I am really not into trick training. Although I have said it before, I repeat that kindness and patience are the most important rules to remember and follow in training your pet. I also feel that obedience training is more important than trick training. You owe it to yourself, your friends and your pet to see that it is well behaved. A few simple tricks will increase your enjoyment of the time you spend with your monkey. Real intensive trick training requires allot of time, and unless you plan to use your pet professionally, it is hardly necessary.